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Posted July 22, 2010

The Relationship of Priests and Bishops Today

Msgr. Stephen Rossetti
Origins, July 22, 2010, Vol. 40. No. 10

"One of the most powerful predictors of a priest's happiness is how he perceives his relationship to his bishop," Msgr. Stephen Rossetti said in a June 18 speech on the relationship between priests and bishops at the U.S. bishops' spring meeting in St. Petersburg, FL.

Msgr. Rossetti said that while it is often assumed that priests and bishops do not have strong relationships, his recent research reveals that 77 percent of priests feel they have a good relationship with ther bishop, a much higher percentage that is seen between employees and supervisors in the secular world. Msgr. Rossetti noted that "most Americans can function relatively well in their jobs if they do not have a great relationship with their bosses. But for a priest, this relationship carries so much valence, so much importance, it is critical that it be exceptionally strong."

He said the U.S. bishops' zero-tolerance policy in the wake of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, while necessary, has left many priests wondering if their bishop will be there for them in time of need.

. . . .The relationship between bishop and priest is unique. The bishop is more than a boss, even more than a biological father. They are bound together by the sacrament of orders. The priest shares in the ministry of his bishop, and the same grace that courses through the spiritual veins of the bishop runs through his priests as well. They are one in the ministry of Jesus and together share the same spiritual lifeblood. This is a relationship which transcends the shifting sands of public opinion and cannot be fully understood in sound bites.

. . . .there are many things I could suggest you do for your priests such as sending them cards on the anniversaries of their ordinations or birthdays; attending the funerals of their parents; visiting them in the hospitals and nursing homes; stopping by their parishes or simply a random act of calling just to see how he's doing. These are all good and important. But the core of what is wanted and needed remains the same: love your priests. And let them know it.